Prosecutor interrogates first suspect in 1980 coup case

March 28, 2012, Wednesday/ 17:12:00/ TODAY'S ZAMAN

In an historic move in Turkish politics, former Ankara Police Chief Muhlis Yılmaz, known as “torturer Muhlis,” became the first suspect to testify before a prosecutor in the investigation into the 1980 coup d'état.

An Ankara prosecutor, Murat Demir, interrogated Yılmaz for allegedly torturing İzzet Çelik, who is currently the mayor of Van's Muradiye Municipality, in the coup era. However, Yılmaz has denied the torture claims.

Turkey witnessed its bloodiest coup on Sept. 12, 1980, when Kenan Evren, formerly a chief of General Staff and later the president of Turkey, led a group that overthrew the democratically elected government. Over 1,000 criminal complaints have now been filed against the coup leaders after a referendum in 2010 enabled such an action. The complaints mainly target Evren. Another important suspect in the indictment is Tahsin Şahinkaya, who was the commander of the Air Force at the time.

The Sept. 12 coup was the bloodiest and best planned military intervention in the history of Turkey. A total of 650,000 people were detained during this period, and files for 1,683,000 people were recorded at police stations. A total of 230,000 people were tried in 210,000 cases, most for political as opposed to criminal reasons. A further 517 people were sentenced to death, while 7,000 people faced charges that carried a sentence of capital punishment. Of those who received the death penalty, 50 were executed. As a result of unsanitary living conditions and torture in prisons, a further 299 people died while in custody.

Turkey took a landmark step in September 2010 in embracing the opportunity to come to terms with the dark years of the 1980s by approving a 26-article constitutional reform package via referendum. This reform paved the way for the trial of the perpetrators of the Sept. 12 coup by abolishing Article 15 of the Constitution, which had provided immunity to the coup leaders. Since the referendum, many victims of the coup as well as anti-coup groups have been waiting for legal action to be initiated against the coup leaders.

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